Hack to Roll Your Pilates or Yoga Mat to Keep it Clean

Tips to Keep Your Mat Clean

Woman Rolling Up Yoga Mat

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Pilates and yoga mats can quickly encounter dirt, grime, and bacteria. Whether you practice at home or in a studio, placing your mat on the floor, standing on it, and sometimes sweating above it means your mat needs frequent cleaning and care.

Even the cleanest gym, studio, or workout room has gunk and germs that will stick to the bottom side of our mats. To help reduce the transfer of dirt and grime, you can try rolling your Pilates and yoga mats to keep the top surface clean without making a crease in your mat.

When you simply roll your mat up from bottom to top, you roll grit and unseen scraps and dirt onto your mat's clean, working surface. To find out more about keeping your mat clean and now to roll it up more efficiently, keep reading.

Why You Should Keep Your Mat Clean

Yoga, Pilates, and other forms of exercise can help you maintain a strong and well-functioning immune system. However, fitness centers, yoga, and Pilates studios can be teeming with bacteria you'd rather not have your immune system work to fight off.

Bacterias such as salmonella and staphylococcus can live on surfaces in gyms and studios and come into contact with you during your practice. If these bacterias end up on your feet and on your mat, they are sure to also transfer onto your hands during a class, and likely, onto your face where they can enter your body through your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Research shows that people tend to touch their faces over 50 times per hour. Around 44% or more of facial touches are on mucosal membrane areas such as the nose, mouth, and eyes where bacteria and viruses can easily enter the body and begin to invade.

How to Roll Your Mat

 This tip is for the thin yoga mats that many of us also use on firm, padded surfaces for Pilates.

  1. With your mat laid flat, loosely fold it over to make the top end an inch or two shorter than the bottom. The clean top surface is now in the middle. Don't crease the folded end. Let there be an inch or two of air bubble in the folded-over end.
  2. Start at the loosely folded end and roll from there.
  3. Roll your mat all the way up. There will be a small section at the end where the inside will be exposed, but for the most part, the whole top surface of your mat—the part you work out on—will stay clean.
  4. Your mat will stay rolled up almost as securely as if you rolled it end to end. Better yet, pop it in a mat bag.

Additional Tips

It's a good idea to bring mat spray or wipes that can disinfect your mat once you're done with your session or class. You can clean your mat with soap, but disinfecting to remove pathogens will require a product that kills the bacteria and viruses. Look for a product labeled as a disinfectant.

The type of mat you have will also determine how you should clean it and how likely it is to absorb odors, sweat, and bacteria. Open-cell yoga mats are often used for hot yoga since they can absorb sweat and reduce the risks of slipping. However, they also absorb sweat and bacteria.

Closed-cell mats are water-resistant and last longer. They don't absorb as much sweat and can be thoroughly wiped down easier. Regardless of what type of mat you have, it's recommended that you clean your mat and other equipment after each use.

Don't forget to also clean your mat bag or sling. After storing your mat in your bag, the bacteria and dirt from the outside that was touching the floor will be transferred.

A Word From Verywell

Rolling up your yoga or Pilates mat in a way that prevents spread of bacteria is wise, but it doesn't replace a proper cleaning. It's best to clean your mat after each use. Also try to be conscious of how often you are touching your face, and wash your hands before and after class.

5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Falkenberg RI, Eising C, Peters ML Yoga and immune system functioning: A systematic review of randomized controlled trialsJ Behav Med. 2018;41:467-82. doi:10.1007/s10865-018-9914-y

  2. Mukherjee N, Dowd SE, Wise A, Kedia S, Vohra V, Banerjee P. Diversity of bacterial communities of fitness center surfaces in a U.S. metropolitan areaInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2014;11(12):12544-12561. doi:10.3390/ijerph111212544

  3. Rahman J, Mumin J, Fakhruddin B. How frequently do we touch facial t-zone: a systematic review. Annals of Global Health. 2020;86(1):75.

  4. Kwok YLA, Gralton J, McLaws ML. Face touching: A frequent habit that has implications for hand hygiene. American Journal of Infection Control. 2015;43(2):112-114.

  5. Cheatham S. 11 steps for disinfecting your fitness facility. National Academy of Sports Medicine.

By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.